The wild European rabbit is one of the last domesticated animal species. The rabbit became a pet around 1500 years ago. Thanks to the ability of the rabbit to reproduce early and the rapid change of generations, man was able to select animals for new characters, sometimes appearing in the course of inevitable mutations.
In nature, animals with traits that interfere with survival are eliminated by natural selection. A person can preserve such a trait in a population of domestic animals if the trait is useful in human economic activity. And sometimes it's just a whim.
As a result of artificial selection, the only nondescript species of wild European rabbit gave birth to all breeds of domestic rabbits that exist in the world today.
You can compare the wild rabbit on the right with the domestic one.
Even a small domestic rabbit is 2 - 3 times the size of a wild one. The exception is miniature rabbits, which can be smaller than their wild ancestor. But miniature rabbits have no economic value. These are pets.
If you don't need a pet, but a rabbit to get meat, skin or fluff, then you need to decide on the breed.
Since the concept of "the best breeds of rabbits" is very relative, we will be determined by the parameters. If we need rabbits to get quality wool, then angora rabbit will definitely be the best. If we need a large hide, then we need to choose some of the giant breeds. To get meat quickly, you need to choose among modern broiler breeds.
I would like, if possible, to combine everything and at the same time have a minimum of hassle in setting up a rabbitry - you need to take a closer look at domestic breeds, bred taking into account the climate.
Therefore, for a start, it would be better to consider the breeds of rabbits bred in the USSR.
Rabbit breeds bred in the Soviet Union
Given the certain confusion on the Internet with images of rabbit breeds, especially the black-brown rabbit suffers from this, it is better to describe these breeds of rabbits with photographs, since, apparently, few people already know what a black-brown fox is, in "honor" which was named the breed of a black-brown rabbit, and is constantly used as an example of a photo of the English fiery black rabbit.
By the way, the fiery black has a very spectacular color and this breed is also worth considering from the point of view of breeding in a private courtyard. But later.
Rabbits in the USSR were bred taking into account climatic conditions. Soviet breeds include:
- white and gray giants, descended from giant European breeds with the blood of local hardy, but outbred animals;
- the Soviet chinchilla, which was also forced to improve with local rabbits, since the European chinchilla was not adapted to the Russian climate;
- Soviet marder, the product of crossing already bred Soviet breeds with crossbred rabbits with a blue color;
- the silver rabbit, descended from the French Champagne with the influx of local blood;
- Russian mountainous or Himalayan, the origin of which is actually obscure;
- black-brown, undeservedly forgotten, although it is one of the best breeds bred in the USSR.
All Soviet breeds have a meat and skin direction, being universal.
This breed originates from the most famous giant rabbit in Europe - the Flanders rabbit. After the flandre was brought to Russia, it turned out that he could not stand Russian frosts. To eliminate this problem, flanders were crossed with local rabbits, which are well adapted to the Russian climate.
The breed was officially registered in 1952. With some color variation in the coloration of the gray giant, they all carry the wild agouti gene, most likely inherited from outbred animals. The color of the gray giant most of all resembles a hare with a gray or reddish tint.
Important! When buying a gray giant, take a closer look at the back of its head. If a light wedge is visible there, it means that instead of a giant, you are being sold a chinchilla. They are the same in color, as both are "wild agouti".
A distinctive feature of the giant is also the ears when viewed from the front. They must be straight and form a Latin V.
The length of the gray giants is 65 cm.Weight is up to 7.5 kg. But usually the average weight of rabbits is 5 kg, rabbits are 6 kg.
The advantages of the breed include the rapid growth of young animals. By the age of 4 months, young rabbits already weigh 2.5 - 3 kg. Gray giants are more resistant to disease than their whimsical ancestors - Flanders.
Of the minuses, the low quality of the skin is noted. The gray giant's fur is not thick. But the skin is impressive in size - a third of a square meter.
The pure white skin is highly prized in the fur industry as it can be dyed any color you want. At the same time, it is desirable that the skin itself be larger, since it is easier to work with a large skin when sewing fur products.
Based on the requirements of the furriers, albinos began to be selected among the Flemish rabbits. When importing white flanders to Russia in 1927, the breeders faced the problem of flanders' thermophilicity.
Although the white Flanders rabbit appeared earlier than the gray one, work on the White Giant breed began much later. And the "late" gray giant and the rabbit of the French chinchilla breed could participate in its formation. If the gray giant as a breed was registered in the middle of the 20th century, then work on the white giant was carried out until the collapse of the USSR.
In order to improve stamina, the size of the white giant was "sacrificed". It is smaller than gray, although not much. The weight of the white giant ranges from 4.3 to 6.1. Average weight - 5 kg. Body length 60 cm with a bust of 40 cm.
The white giant is fertile, the rabbit has 7-10 rabbits in the litter. The queens of this breed seldom eat or trample the young. Rabbits gain weight well, reaching 2.5 - 3.5 kg by 4 months.
The skins of the white giant are in demand in the industry, although they are inferior to the skin of the Soviet chinchilla. But the chinchilla is gray, which limits the use of its skins.
Of the shortcomings in white giants, a weak pubescence of the paws is noted, which is why they can get pododermatitis when kept on a trellised floor.
Attention! Not to be confused with the much smaller chinchilla rabbit of French origin in the photo below.
The Soviet chinchilla was bred using a reproductive cross between French chinchillas and the white giant breed. In addition to crossing, there was a strict selection of rabbits in terms of size, adaptability to Russian climatic conditions and early maturity.
The resulting Soviet chinchilla is the largest of all Soviet breeds. The body length of the Soviet chinchilla is 70 cm, the average chest girth is 40 cm. Weight is from 6 to 7 kg. At 4 months, Soviet chinchillates weigh 3.2 - 4.6 kg.
The color of rabbits of this breed, like all agouti, is zone-gray.
Attention! The Soviet chinchilla has a light color on the back of the neck. As in the photo.
The fur of the Soviet chinchilla is of high quality. There is only one breed to which the chinchilla is inferior in fur density. This is a black-brown rabbit.
The Soviet chinchilla is a versatile and very high quality breed that gives excellent fur and tasty meat.
They were bred by crossing Soviet chinchillas with Russian ermine and further infusion of blood of outbred Armenian blue rabbits. The result is an animal with a completely unique fur, highly appreciated by the fur industry. The color of the rabbit resembles the color of the marten, which gave it its name. "Marder" is a marten.
The marder has a beautiful soft brown skin. The color range varies from dark to light brown. Due to the quality of the skin, the Soviet marder has very bright prospects for breeding these rabbits for the needs of the fur industry.
The rabbit itself is of medium size. Its weight reaches 5 kg. But it grows slowly, so it cannot be considered as a meat one. In this case, meat is a by-product.
Unfortunately, the Soviet marder is thermophilic and unsuitable for breeding in the northern regions of Russia.
One of the situations when a new breed was bred without the addition of other blood, exclusively by selection. The parent rabbit breed is a French Champagne rabbit. He was taken out in the Poltava region by the method of selecting the largest individuals. In the process of breeding, the previously inconspicuous silverness increased, and the resistance of the breed to climatic conditions improved.
They raise a silver rabbit not only for the sake of a beautiful skin. This breed is distinguished by its early maturity and produces tasty meat.
Silver rabbits are born black, sometimes gray. Silvery gradually begins to appear after a month of life, and in a certain order: nose, tail, belly; head, back, chest, ears. This change in color in a certain order indicates the purebredness of the animal. Finally, the animals change color by 4 months.
Attention! Too light fur in a silver rabbit is considered a disadvantage.
In this case, from two parents of the same shade, the offspring will turn out to be lighter. When breeding, you should try to choose a pair so that one of the parents is darker than the other. The rabbit brings 8-9 rabbits.
Silvery squirrels resemble Siberian squirrels not only in color, but also in temperament. They are funny and lively animals that quickly get used to the service personnel.
Their average weight today is 4.5 kg. The maximum is 6.6 kg. At 4 months, the young already weigh 4 kg. Slaughter weight at 4 months is 60%, slightly below the slaughter weight of broiler breeds.
Although the skins are valued for their pubescence, the density of the fur is inferior to the Soviet chinchilla and black-brown rabbit.
Is the ancestor of the broiler California rabbit, which is similar to the ermine in such a way that they are easily confused. The Russian ermine is also called Himalayan.
The ermine originates precisely from the Himalayas. Later, the breed came to England, where it finally took shape as an ermine. The name of the breed was given by the similarity of color to that of an ermine.
Part of the population brought to Russia, in the process of breeding, became larger and acquired a number of specific qualities, which gave reason to call the Russian part of the population a Russian ermine rabbit.
To increase the body weight, the ermines poured in the blood of a white giant. As a result, body weight increased, and the quality of the fur deteriorated, while ermine was famous for its good fur. Further breeding work was aimed at returning the quality of the skin to the Russian ermine.
At this time, the average weight of Russian ermine is 3.8 kg. Body length 51 cm.
The rabbit gives birth to 8 cubs, which are born completely white, acquiring a characteristic color only by 8 months.
Delicious tender meat and excellent thick fur, practically unparalleled in quality in the world, are obtained from the Russian ermine.
An undeservedly forgotten and already rare breed. But in vain. The black-brown rabbit is almost ideal for Russian conditions. They decided to withdraw this breed in the forties of the XX century, when the fur of a black-brown fox was in fashion. At the same time, work began on a breed of rabbits, whose color could completely copy the black-brown fox.
An inexperienced person will surely confuse a black-brown rabbit with a silver one. This is probably why the description of black and brown usually does not coincide with the attached photograph. And with the correct description of the suit of the black-brown rabbit in the photo, you can see an animal with a black back and a red belly. They are two different rabbits. Black and red - a native of England and is called black-fiery, its description is below.
But the silvery breed does not have that veil that distinguishes the skin of a black-brown fox and the appearance of which was achieved in a black-brown rabbit. Although black-brown was bred using the same Champagne and English silver breed.
In 1948, the black-brown was recognized as a breed with the following characteristics:
- average body length 60 cm;
- average chest girth 30 cm;
- average weight 5 kg. Young growth at 8 months 3.5 - 4 kg;
The main color of purebred rabbits is black-brown.
For Russia, the black-brown breed is good because it is very unpretentious. Although the broiler Californian is ahead of the black-brown in growth and lethal output of meat, it is much more whimsical and is not able to endure the Russian frosts.
There are two types in the breed. One carries the silver gene. The second should be pure black, but when viewed from different angles, the fur should become either light or brown - to play. This quality is very much appreciated by furriers.
Unfortunately, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breed was almost lost. But it would be possible to sew "fox" sheepskin coats.
Black fire rabbit
A hide breed developed in England. There is not much meat from it, it is a by-product. And the live weight of the animal is 1.8 - 2.7 kg. But the original skin is used for sewing accessories and clothing. The American Rabbit Breeders Association standard provides 4 color options for this breed. What are the colors of the black-fiery rabbit can be seen below.
In rabbits, the difference in color is very noticeable when they are near.
Ryzhina is present in all color variants.
Due to the original color and docile nature of this rabbit today, it is more often bred as pets, and not as a skin breed.
Broiler breeds of rabbits in Russia today are represented mainly by the Californian and three varieties of the New Zealand breed.
These are medium-sized rabbits, they are distinguished by rapid weight gain, early maturity and good skins.
Variations of the New Zealand rabbit breed, photo
The modern breed originated in Germany, although there is also a dwarf butterfly species.
The breed also bears the names Strokach and German Motley Giant. Strokach is a continuous dark stripe that runs along the entire ridge of the butterfly.
Attention! The color of a butterfly is considered to be of good quality when not a single spot on the sides touches the stripe on the back. All other color options are recommended to be excluded from breeding.
Butterfly spots come in three colors: black, blue and chocolate or havana.
A butterfly is a large animal. Body length 66 cm, weight of an adult from 6 kg. Young growth at 3.5 months - 2.7 kg. They grow a little slower than broiler rabbits.
Slaughter meat yield is rather low, lower than that of silver meat - 55%. The butterfly also has good fur.
In addition to meat and skins, wool for yarn can be obtained from some breeds. During the molting period, these animals are literally stripped bald, collecting the falling wool.
In white down, the amount of down in the wool is 84 - 92%, awn 8 - 16%. From an adult animal, you can collect 350 - 450 g of fluff. And if you try and feed him with high quality, then all 600 g.
The weight of adults of the white downy is small, about 4 kg.
White downy does not tolerate heat very well. At temperatures above 28 °, it may die from heatstroke. For downy rabbits, special cages have been developed, suitable for keeping animals at any time of the year.
It is better to comb out rabbits with a slicker so as not to frighten them with the plucking procedure.
The breed is originally from Turkey and is the parent of the White Down. Angora is bred in order to get fluff from them. Other products, for example, meat, can also be obtained from them, the weight of the representatives of the breed is 4 kg.But this is not profitable. The meat costs the same or cheaper than the meat of broiler animals, and you won't be able to get any more fluff from a slaughtered animal.
Wool is removed from Angora every 3 months, getting up to 200 g of wool from one haircut or plucking.
When breeding for a tribe, animals are left with the maximum overgrowth. The fluff is removed from the rest of the young animals twice and slaughtered for meat.
There are 6 varieties of the Angora Down breed:
- white (and colored).
Unfortunately, with the development of the production of artificial materials, the importance of rabbit fluff to the industry began to decline. It may very well be that soon downy rabbits can only be seen in the zoo.
What breed of rabbits to choose for breeding in a subsidiary farm will need to be decided by the breeder. But if you do not want unnecessary trouble with the installation of a warm rabbitry and the search for the necessary feed, it is better to take a domestic breed that was bred at one time to meet the needs of the national economy of the USSR, where, frankly, animals were not pampered with high-quality feed.